World class. Once reserved for the elite. Now, arguable. In a game of opinions, almost impossible to find universal consensus. Some rate. Others, not so much. With no set criteria for entry, what qualifies as world class?
Does a world class defender have to possess technical proficiency and passing range? Do midfielders have to be box-to-box workhorses with an abundance of ability in both a tackling and creative sense? Must wingers boast blistering pace and the ability to consistently ghost by players? Do attackers need to be creators as well as goalscorers?
The benchmarks of the modern era had all of the above. All-round quality and class from players such as Paolo Maldini, Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo cemented their status as the elite, genuine world class of their time.
Not all can match those heights. In truth, very few. On that basis, rather than direct comparisons, should it be judged on the best player in a given position in the world at the current time? Even the top three? Maybe so.
Whatever the criteria, one thing is for certain, far too many get branded as world beaters when they are at most, very good players. The list of names who fall into this category is endless. There is one who has walked both paths in critics eyes. Branded as world class and overrated more than any other. That person, footballer slash global brand, David Beckham.
In terms of professionalism, there’s few who rival the most household of names. Beckham has always been a shining example of what the modern professional footballer should be. An ambassador for the game. Someone the youth of today and talent of tomorrow should aspire to emulate.
As far as ambition and dedication to training, again, Beckham should unquestionably be held in high esteem. He has always been that mould of player, willing to put the hours in when everyone else has hit the showers. Forever striving for improvement, or at the very least, maintaining high standards, often set by himself.
With all that said, personality, character, what goes on behind the scenes day-to-day, largely goes unnoticed or unappreciated. At the end of the day, it all comes down to performances on the pitch, ability, or lack there-of. This is where Beckham receives criticism from some quarters, branding him as overrated.
There is no doubt his crossing and set-piece ability is second to none in the modern game. Put in a position where he can plant a ball on a strikers head or test a keeper from a dead ball situation, Beckham delivered time and time again, and in big game pressure situations too, none more so than the infamous last ditch free kick against Greece.
Proving himself as a big game player throughout his career, along with his catalogue of great goals and pin-point assists for both club and country in his stints at Manchester United and Real Madrid, earned him the right to be held in ‘world class’ regard by most who judge. However, there are, and always have been, some shortcomings to his game.
For someone who was predominantly a winger, Beckham lacked pace, even in his more youthful years. As well as this, he would very rarely be able to take on and beat players, and didn’t possess much skill or tricks to throw players off. Because of these attributes being seen as vital to being a top quality winger, Beckham had his doubters.
Some would argue he didn’t need any of the aforementioned, that his passing range and crossing ability more than made up for it, making said attributes redundant to an extent. Hard to disagree with given his consistency of end product, but at the same time, a logical argument to make. Would he have been as good without the quality around him?
Some would say no. That players like Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, and later, the Galacticos, players like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo, among others, facilitated and masked his shortcomings, creating that time and space he needed to deliver a quality final ball, without having to beat his man or create space.
His later stints at both AC Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy suggest this argument holds some substance, with goal ratio alone dropping from one in five at Old Trafford and one in seven at the Bernabeu, to one in sixteen at AC Milan.
The counter argument by some would be that his goal ratio was one in six at Los Angeles Galaxy, but to most, it goes without saying that while Major League Soccer is improving, it is still quite some distance off that of the top leagues in Europe. By all accounts, Beckham should have been one of, if not the best players in America.
Injuries have played their part to a decrease in form. Some might argue commitments outside of football made Beckham take his eye off the ball and onto the next underwear collection he was to model. Doubtful, but not beyond consideration.
The latest move to Paris Saint-Germain would add fuel to these flames among skeptics. Paris is seen as the fashion capital of the world and the brand that is David Beckham is a much sought after asset for those in the industry.
With PSG’s virtual bottomless pit of cash, they have assembled a team which Beckham may not be able to get into, and even if he did, would he have the ability to shine in a decent but inferior league to that of England or Spain?
For those with an aversion to Manchester United, Beckham has always been the subject of criticism, but in the same breath, most probably the only player outside Eric Cantona who football supporters have universally liked, as a person if nothing else.
English players in general tend to be overrated. Media hype creates premature status most never live up to, causing the national team to consistently disappoint those of a more optimistic nature. This trend has to stop. It has created a tier who think they are better than they are, and makes youngsters think they’ve made it when the hard work has only just begun.
As regards David Beckham. We all have our opinions. He is clearly one of the highest profile players in the modern era, but whether he should be held in such regard, remembered as a great, that is up for debate
Genuine world class? Or a really good player surrounded by genuine world class for most of his career?
What should be considered world class in the modern game?